Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis found in dogs and is unfortunately extremely common. OA is a chronic joint disease that involves the loss of joint cartilage or new bone formation around the joint (also known as osteophytosis). This condition can be extremely debilitating for the dog and can be a painful condition which in some severe cases leads to limb disfunction. In this article, we give an overview of Canine Osteoarthritis. We explain in more detail what it is, what are the symptoms, and what treatments are available.
What is Canine Osteoarthritis?
OA is commonly a secondary condition that is in part caused by another condition such as cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, or elbow dysplasia to name just a few.
However, it is not always the case that OA is a result of another condition. In some cases, there is no obvious cause of OA apart from being the result of genetics, age, or other contributing factors such as the weight of the dog, the gender, the breed, the amount of exercise they get as well as their diet.
What are the signs and symptoms?
As it is such a common condition, dog owners want to understand the signs of symptoms of OA so that they can recognise the condition as early as possible. The main symptoms can include:
How is OA diagnosed?
Several factors contribute towards the official diagnosis of Canine OA. It is usually based on a combination of the dog’s history in addition to a physical examination.
The physical examination will be an opportunity to look at how the dog’s joints are affected. They will be looked at to see if the dog is showing any signs of pain in response to the joint movement.
CT and MRI scans are commonly used as a diagnostic tool. MRIs can provide information about the structure of soft tissue such as the ligaments whilst CT scans are good for assessing any changes to the bone structure of the joints. This information is vital in understanding the problem areas.
Xray's can also be recommended to see which joints are affected and to what degree and help rule out any other conditions that it could be that cause similar symptoms.
What treatment is available for OA?
Whilst there is no cure for Canine osteoarthritis, there are several different approaches available when it comes to treating and coping with the symptoms of OA. This depends on the dog in question as to which method will potentially be most effective.
Controlling with the weight of the dog is a vital part of the treatment. As we discussed earlier in the article, some OA is a direct cause of the dog being overweight. The increased weight is added increased pressure and strain on the joints which can lead to them being in severe pain. Even if their weight wasn’t the cause of the problem, owners need to ensure their dog stays at a healthy weight to try and not make the pain any worse. Ideally, owners should be able to feel their dog’s ribs but not see them and from a bird’s eye view, their dog’s figure should be an hourglass figure.
Several forms of rehabilitation can be used solo or in combination, to improve joint mobility and increase muscle mass. This includes hydrotherapy (swimming or the use of an underwater treadmill), acupuncture, or laser therapy.
The type of exercise the dog is used to undertaking may need to be amended to stop their condition from worsening. If they are used to doing high-impact activities such as jumping or running, these may have to be limited as they can lead to inflammation of the joints and lead to a lot of pain. Instead of these intense exercises, low impact exercises that are more controlled such as lead walks can help build up muscle strength and stability.
Pain medication and supplements
NSAIDs- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as meloxicam, ketoprofen, etc are most commonly used when it comes to pain control of OA. Supplements may also be recommended by the veterinarian, depending on the patient. Omega 3 fatty acids or glucosamine sulfate are two common types that are often prescribed and may help alleviate OA pain in the joints. The role of supplements is to improve the function of the joints, reduce inflammation and help slow the progression of the joint damage over time. These medications not only promote healing, they can help increase water retention in the cartilage, which can help provide the joint with more cushioning.
In some extreme cases, surgery may be the best treatment option. The surgery needed can vary from treatment for ligament rupture, or total joint replacement surgery which most commonly involves the hips or elbows for canine patients.
No matter what method of treatment is used, there will inevitably be a level of aftercare that owners need to be prepared for. OA is a progressive disease, so the main focus of the treatment methods above is to help the dog live comfortably for many years to come. These treatments will not make the condition disappear, but when administered correctly and treatment plans strictly adhered to, the treatments can be extremely effective at slowing down the speed at which OA progresses over time.
Whilst canine Osteoarthritis is a common problem in dogs, it is never a pleasant condition to wish on any dog due to its painful and progressive nature. Whilst it is a painful condition, it is one that can be managed. If your dog is showing any of the symptoms described, it is important to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to diagnose the condition and work together with the owner and veterinarian physiotherapists to formulate the best possible care plan.
Dogs are notorious for being reluctant to show pain. This natural instinct can make it incredibly frustrating for dog owners as they may not be aware of how much pain their dog is in or that they are in any pain at all. However, if you study your dog’s body language carefully, over time you will be able to identify subtle signs of pain which will make it easier to manage, treat and hopefully prevent it in the future. In this article, we will discuss how owners can learn more about whether their dog is in pain as well as some canine pain management strategies to hopefully help relieve your dog’s discomfort.
How do dogs feel pain
Due to their survival instinct to try not to show pain, it used to be believed that dogs did not experience pain in the same way humans did. However, in recent years, veterinarians have made huge improvements in the understanding of how dogs feel pain. Studies have shown that although dogs do not show pain as easily, they actually have similar nervous systems to humans and this knowledge has allowed us to implement new canine pain management strategies.
Pain is defined as a “highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury” and varies significantly depending on the specific injury, condition as well as the individual. As pain is very subjective, it can be difficult to measure, especially as dogs instinctively hide their pain to prevent being seen as weak and vulnerable by predators. Whilst it is challenging to know when a dog is in pain, there are some signs that owners can look for.
Common signs of pain in dogs can be:
Spotting the signs is crucial for canine pain management. Whilst these can all be signs of pain, it is important to note that they are not exclusive to dogs experiencing pain. There can be other reasons why they are showing these symptoms.
Canine pain management strategies
Once it has been established that a dog is in pain, they will need to have a pain management strategy in place. If your dog is undergoing any surgery or dental procedure, feel free to ask what pain management your vet is using as the options are varied.
In general, medication of some form will be given to the dog before, during, and after any surgery to help with pain relief. Many types of drugs can be used to prevent or reduce canine pain and your vet will choose the appropriate drugs based specifically on your dog’s needs and condition.
NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
This type of drug is used to treat mild to moderate pain and discomfort and work by interfering with the production of inflammatory molecules that trigger swelling and pain. These drugs are powerful and therefore must be used with caution as they can have potential side effects on organs such as the liver, kidneys, and stomach.
Opioids are often used in more severe cases of pain, for example, if a dog is suffering from severe arthritis or cancer. This group of medications includes morphine, codeine, and hydromorphone and are used on selective cases only to try and reduce discomfort and maintain a good quality of life for a dog that suffers from chronic pain.
Depending on the cause of the pain, one pain management strategy could be therapeutic exercises or treatments. For example, dogs with osteoarthritis or similar conditions may benefit greatly from treatments such as laser therapy or hydrotherapy. Establishing a course of treatment is something your veterinary physiotherapist will be able to create as dogs can experience the best benefits when this treatment and exercises are sustained. Acupuncture and massage can also be used to offer pain relief, however, this tends to only provide short-term relief.
Whilst it can be a challenge for owners to reduce their dog’s weight, studies have shown that lameness can be decreased when dogs lose weight. It is important to note that this method of pain management truly depends on what condition the dog is suffering from. For example, a dog with osteoarthritis may benefit from this method.
Untreated pain is something no human or pet should ever have to experience. Whilst it can be challenging to spot if your dog is in pain, once you notice any subtle sign, you must visit your vet. The earlier these signs are caught, the higher the chance your vet will be able to come up with a successful canine pain management strategy to stop the pain or reduce your dog’s pain as much as possible.
The National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists was formed back in 1985. NAVP aims to promote the professional practice of veterinary physiotherapy. Working alongside veterinary surgeons, the organisation has been able to grow substantially. NAVP aims to ensure that the highest standards of veterinary physiotherapy care will be delivered to animals. This is done by linking a strong foundation of scientific knowledge with clinical practice and continued research. NAVP is widely recognised in the industry for its pivotal role in developing the first direct entry routes for veterinary physiotherapy training; both at postgraduate and also now undergraduate level. There are various benefits of being a NAVP member, here we will discuss them.
Veterinary physiotherapy, like all other professions, is subject to strict codes of conduct, enshrining rigorous ethical and moral obligations. Being a member of a professional association shows veterinarians and owners alike that:
Who are NAVP members?
The NAVP membership comprises only of graduates from accredited University BSc and PgD/ MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy degree courses. This allows vets and owners to know that any Veterinary Physiotherapist (VP) who is a NAVP member has successfully passed a VP degree. It makes members “stand out” from other VP associations that don’t necessarily have this as a requirement.
Full Benefits Of Being An NAVP Member:
What is the Eligibility?
NAVP full membership costs £130 per year and is open to any graduates from Veterinary Physiotherapy University validated degree courses:
We promote excellence in veterinary physiotherapy with the primary aim being the welfare of the animal in our care.
The NAVP is a group of people in the same profession with a shared vision and goal. Members share a common commitment and motivation.
The real learning begins once you qualify.
From the day you qualify and become a member of the NAVP you have support, guidance, and help with any question or problem.
NAVP helps new graduates understand the profession and the rules which govern us as veterinary physiotherapists.
The main purpose of a professional association is to help, support, and inform its members. It seeks to further the profession and the interests of its members.
The professional body looks after its members and deals with any complaints made against a member by an owner/vet. They will only refer on to the Register for any complaints which are too serious to deal with on an internal basis.
So, If you are a veterinary physiotherapist or currently studying in the field, we would love to hear from you and discuss becoming a NAVP member. Together, we can help the organisation grow even more and take it to new heights.
To learn more about how to become a member, visit Membership - National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists (navp.co.uk) Requests for membership application forms should be made to the NAVP secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most equine injuries have some level of a preventable component. However, a lot of injury management focuses on establishing a cure rather than prevention. In order to do this successfully, a holistic 360 approach will need to be taken as keeping a horse sound and well involves much more than simply trying to avoid ridden injuries. Here we discuss further why we believe at NAVP that prevention is better than cure when it comes to equine care.
Providing a safe environment for the horse
Every aspect of the horses' lives needs to be considered to provide a safe environment. One of the best things forms of equine care is to provide them with both stability and routine as much as possible. Horses by their very nature are classed as flight animals. They can be extremely quick to react and in some cases overreact in situations that cause them stress and make them feel like they are at risk. Sudden movements mean that muscles react without conscious thought which makes muscle damage more likely. Being in these scenarios automatically brings with it a danger that they could not only injury themselves but potentially harm others as well.
Providing a routine not only helps the horse feel safe but has also been shown to significantly limit stress. The simplest observations can make a significant difference in reducing a horse’s stress levels, which has a great impact on equine care. For example, do you think your horse is happier in a stable that is close to other horses partitioned by bars? Or do they prefer space with a solid partition?
Many smaller injuries can occur in the stable, yard, or field and can often go unnoticed. Over time, these seemingly small, harmless injuries can lay the foundations for poor performance and lead to more severe injuries in the long term. This is why veterinary physiotherapists take detailed case history notes when they see a patient. This allows them to identify the possible cause of the problem they are treating which you as the owner may not be aware of allowing them to create a proper equine care routine. When a minor injury is left untreated, it can develop into something more serious which can take months to become apparent to the owner. This shows how imperative it is for owners to become attuned with their horses and try and detect these smaller issues in time.
Provide individualised care
Every person is unique and the same is the case for horses. Each horse can have unique preferences as to how they like to be managed daily. The carer of the horse must take the time to know how the horse reacts in different circumstances to find the best way of providing equine care. This will help ensure stress levels are kept to a minimum and therefore lower the likelihood of harmful behaviour.
Injuries in the field
A small slip in the field due to ground conditions or playing around is very common but can result in soft tissue damage. Most at risk in these cases are adductor and hamstring group muscles along with the lumbosacral joint area.
Here are a few things owners or riders should consider:
Injuries in the stable
When it comes to feeding, the safest and most natural way to feed a horse is from the floor with loose forage. When this isn't possible, hay nets are used and these can bring their own risks. Many owners are aware of this problem and opt for hay bars instead.
Whilst any area can be affected, the most common in these situations are the digital muscles and limb joints, the adductor muscles, the gluteal and hamstring muscles- which become involved if the horse pulls back and exerts sudden strain on their hindquarters.
Here are a few things owners or riders should consider:
Tying up is one of the areas owners have control over and a main area that the prevention is better than cure rule can be practically applied.
As veterinary physiotherapists, we see a lot of injuries and issues that are a direct result of pull-back trauma of some type. Whilst a lot of owners are aware of the damage that can be caused and does get their horse checked over, a neck injury can in fact take months to rehabilitate with the ramifications lasting potentially months if not years.
Once a horse has pulled back and caused damage to the neck and atlantal-occipital joint, any small pressure in that area will tend to panic them and cause another pullback, worsening the problem.
If the trauma occurs on a concrete standing and the horse cannot break free easily, it may exert a huge amount of pressure on the hindquarters with the possibility of slipping and causing serious damage to the hindquarters.
Here are a few equine care tips owners and riders should consider:
We at NAVP truly believe that prevention is better than cure and hopefully this equine care article has highlighted some of the ways you can help prevent equine injuries from occurring in the future. Our role is to prevent minor injuries from becoming major injuries and by following the Prevention is better than cure rule, we can keep our horses safe.
Canine Elbow dysplasia is a condition that affects many breeds, particularly young medium to large-sized dogs. Unfortunately, treatments remain relatively limited which is a concern for dog owners and breeders alike. Therefore, it is a common question to ask whether Elbow Dysplasia in dogs is genetic.
What is Elbow Dysplasia?
Elbow dysplasia is an abnormal development of the elbow joint. This results in the early development of osteoarthritis and degenerative changes. The condition is the result of a dog’s elbow joint failing to develop correctly. This prevents its components from working properly together.
Types of Elbow Dysplasia
There are three main types of elbow dysplasia conditions that dogs usually suffer from. These are:
Is canine elbow dysplasia genetic?
To put it short, yes. The tendency towards elbow dysplasia is usually passed down from a dog’s parents.
What dog breeds are most at risk for elbow dysplasia?
Elbow dysplasia is most prevalent among certain breeds of dogs., even some of the most popular breeds such as the Labrador Retriever have high rates of the disease. Overall, elbow dysplasia is mostly found in medium and large breeds. A recent study has shown that the following breeds are more susceptible to elbow diseases (including elbow dysplasia). These are:
The gender of the dog can also have an impact. The study showed males have one a half times the risk of developing an elbow disease than females.
There are even some breeds such as the Jack Russell terrier and West Highland white terrier that the study showed to actually have reduced risk of elbow disease compared to the average crossbreed dogs.
What can breeders and owners do?
Whilst the risk of elbow dysplasia cannot be eradicated completely, there are some things that breeders can do to help limit the risk. Often this was done by mating together dogs that are free from the condition. Smart breeding decisions like this make it far less likely that the dog will develop dysplasia.
Although the condition is genetic to a degree, there are still environmental factors that can increase the risk of the disease which owners must be aware of. Lack of exercise, poor nutrition and dog obesity can all increase the risk of the dog developing elbow dysplasia at some point during their lifetime.
What are the early signs of canine elbow dysplasia?
Symptoms can start to show in the dog when they are relatively young at around 5 months. Therefore it is important that tests are done as soon as symptoms start to show. Undertaking a CT scan can help diagnose the condition.
The symptoms can vary but include noticing that your dog struggles to bear weight on a certain paw. Or if you notice that a paw is turning outwards more than the others. Other symptoms include walking in a stiff manner, especially after exercise, and a reluctance to exercise in the first place. Whilst there may be a myriad of other reasons why these symptoms have occurred, it is imperative that tests are undertaken in order to rule out elbow dysplasia or catch it as soon as possible.
What is the prognosis of elbow dysplasia in dogs?
Discomfort can be eased by ensuring the dog maintains a healthy weight and takes regular, short walks on a lead to avoid overexertion and worsening the condition. Try and ensure the dog doesn’t run or jump too much. Also, consider your surroundings. Adapt your home accordingly to ensure your dog remains comfortable and reduce the risk of falls.
In some cases, anti-inflammatories or painkillers can be prescribed and in certain cases. A combination of surgery or physiotherapy may be the best route to explore.
We hope we have answered the question is Elbow Dysplasia in dogs genetic. Whilst elbow dysplasia is a painful, long-term condition, the positive news is that it shouldn’t shorten the dog's life. By ensuring the dog’s discomfort is lowered through a healthy lifestyle, the dog can still enjoy a great quality of life. If you are concerned about your dog having elbow dysplasia then ensure you visit a trained veterinary professional for an early diagnosis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is extremely common in horses. The cartilage within a joint begins to break down which changes the underlying bone. As this type of arthritis is also called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis, it usually develops relatively slowly and then gets worse over time and can significantly impact the horse’s range of movement. Therefore it is imperative that equine owners not only understand the symptoms of the condition but also what treatment can take place to help ease the pain. Here is our guide to managing your horse with arthritis.
Where does OA occur?
Whilst any joint in the horse’s body is at risk of being affected by OA, it is usually the hind limb and the hock joint, in particular, that is most commonly affected in equine OA cases. It completely depends on the individual horse as well as other determining factors such as their breed, their discipline and whether they have had any trauma history.
What causes arthritis?
There are many reasons why a horse may develop arthritis over its lifetime. Here are some of the main reasons:
What are early-onset signs?
Even before the visual signs start to show there are several onset signs that horse owners should be conscious of.
Unfortunately, a diagnosis in the early stages of OA is difficult. The changes caused by arthritis within the joint are subtle but can cause enough discomfort to affect movement and in some cases, as explained above, behaviour changes.
As lameness does not usually kick in until arthritis has progressed, it is natural and understandable that riders feel their horse is just being “naughty”, misbehaving or being lazy. To avoid making this mistake, a vet physio should be consulted to help identify the problem and assess what is causing the poor performance.
The vet physio will undertake a comprehensive assessment and take a detailed history to get the most accurate diagnosis possible. This diagnosis will help you understand the next steps required to managing your horse with arthritis.
The horse’s posture should also be examined. Lack of propulsion from the hindquarters which act as the engine of the horse will lead undiagnosed for too long, the compensatory issues become the most noticeable to the rider. This can be back pain and heavy in both or one rein.
The farrier will also be able to spot an indicator of arthritis. For example, there may be difficulties when showing the hindlimbs and this can often be an indicator. The horse may either snatch up the hindlimb and hold it in flex before relaxing or they may be reluctant to pick it up at all due to the pain.
The diagnosis does also depend on how soon a vet is involved. Where no obvious lameness is seen, owners will often assume there is another reason or explanation for the decline in performance and will get a therapist to come and do a maintenance treatment. Whilst this may initially help with the compensatory effects and allow the horse to resume some normal work if the underlying cause is a joint problem, the results will be limited. When no improvement is to be seen (a guideline is after 3 treatments) and all other observations are considered, the horse should be referred to the vet for further examination.
The successful treatment of OA is not down to one person alone. When managing your horse with arthritis, a collective responsibility falls on the vet, vet physio, trainer, rider and owner alike to ensure the horse remains as comfortable as possible.
Veterinary treatment for OA will depend heavily on the diagnostic results whilst also considering the level of work, age and condition of the horse. The vet has several options available to them to treat OA.
Vet Physio Support
By the time OA is affecting the horse’s work or is a noticeable lameness, it will have been present for some timer, therefore postural compensations will have occurred. Muscles will be sore and altered weight bearing will have taken place. If this is not addressed then other areas will become affected as time goes on, often leading to owners feeling that treatment for the affected joints has not worked - which is not necessarily true. The vet physio will address these muscular issues in order, once veterinary treatment has taken effect.
Vets may also ask for Laser therapy to be included in the treatment - this can be very effective provided it is introduced at the right time in the treatment programme. Together with the vet, the vet physio will work on a programme of rehabilitation and maintenance treatments which will ensure the condition can be monitored and the horse kept comfortable.
The farrier may decide to make changes to the showing of the horse to help with the condition.
A different approach may be necessary to the training/ schooling programme. When managing a horse with arthritis, an understanding of what stage the condition is in, and to what extent the joint is compromised (and therefore limiting certain joint movement) is key to helping the owner and the horse.
They may now be reduced or gone for now but the joint is still compromised. It is not “as good as new” despite the treatment being carried out. It often takes time for an owner to accept that there is a problem, which may limit what they hope to achieve with their horse but with support, good advice and their team working together, it is possible in most cases to have a horse that can return to a level of work that becomes acceptable to both horse and rider.
Managing your horse with arthritis will be dependent on the individual horse - there is no prescriptive programme that applies to every horse, although there will be some common factors – which then need to be tweaked to suit the individual.
Management will depend on:
Methods of management
Turn OutIdeally, the more they can walk around in the field and keep the joints gently mobilised the better the joints and muscles will be. But , problems will occur if the horse is overweight, plays around in the field or if you cant manage the grass (applicable in most livery yards). Where possible, make sure the field conditions are safe and will not cause more trauma to the joint. For example, playing with other horses or having deep mud in gateways can both be dangerous.
Stable ConditionsIf the horse is stabled ensure they have a good bed that is deep enough to allow the horse to rest when lying down but also to aid in them getting up and down.
RidingThe amount of riding will depend on what work you can do following an official diagnosis, the degree of arthritis and the success of the vet and vet physio treatment. Always factor in a warm-up programme, avoid small circles which will involve tight turns. Do not school daily and be aware of the surface you are working on. Intersperse riding with hacking plus 2 rest days per week for a good balance.
Pole WorkFor the younger horse with early-onset arthritis / inflamed joins and which has been medicated, poles can be useful to help with the range of joint movement. For the older horse with obvious arthritis changes - sometimes you will see they drag their feet - even if medicated, the joint is likely to be affected to a point where pole work whilst ridden would be contraindicated - for these horses in handwork using pole would be kinder and more helpful.
Supplements There are plenty on the market to help with managing your horse with arthritis, some work better than others. Be sure not to overdo supplmentation. Just like humans, overdosing with some supplements or using too many will cause a nutritional imbalance
TimeUnderstand the anatomy and the inflammatory process - your vet and vet physio will talk you through this. Medicating the joints works well but the results may not always be as instant as you think. Give it time to work and be prepared to medicate more than once- your vet will advise you on this.
Farrier advice Your farrier will be able to help with advice on possible changes in shoeing. Often helpful to the farrier of the horse can be lightly exercised before shoeing- just to help with joint flexibility before shoeing. In some cases, the farrier may lower the height of the tripod to make it easier for the horse to flex the limb when rasping and clenching up. In some severe cases where weight-bearing on the hind limbs is difficult the tripod can be lowered when dealing with the front feet.
Osteoarthritis is not a nice condition for your horse to live with, however, especially when caught early, an effective treatment plan can be put in place. There are many ways of managing your horse with arthritis but they depend on working as collaboratively as possible with your vet and vet physio. Every horse is unique and therefore will need a unique tailored recovery plan to suit your horse's needs.
Hip Dysplasia is a painful condition that causes one or even both hip joints to develop abnormally as the puppy grows. Whilst hip dysplasia is still a common problem among canines, there are some things we can do to help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia as our understanding of the condition has improved over time. In this guide to hip dysplasia in dogs, we discuss in more detail what hip dysplasia is and what dog owners should know.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
The hip is a “ball and socket” joint that usually fits closely together in order to enable easy movement. Hip dysplasia occurs when this hip joint doesn’t fit together properly and can cause pain, swelling, and even arthritis over time. The ball (the head of the femur, or thighbone) and the socket in the pelvis, also known as the acetabulum, need to grow at equal rates. It is when this is not the case when the deformity occurs.
Puppies are not born with hip dysplasia. Whilst the condition can occur relatively young, puppies are in fact born with normal hips and do not have hip dysplasia at birth. This is due to the fact that when puppies are born, their hip joints are cartilage and only become bone as the puppy grows. The process begins shortly after birth if puppies are going to develop the condition and will start showing symptoms which they are about 5-6 months old.
Whilst there are no exact rules, the condition tends to be worse in medium or large-breed dogs, dogs that are overweight, and also dogs that have been over-exercised when they were young and growing.
Whilst a lot of the condition and the genetics behind what causes it still remains unknown and environmental factors are important, studies have shown that hip dysplasia is more common in some breeds than others. Whilst this indicates that the condition is in some way genetic, it is challenging for scientists to understand which genes are responsible for the development of the disorder. This is because, whilst some genes are associated with the condition, they are genes that are breed-specific. Therefore the genes that are linked to hip dysplasia are different in different breeds, making the job of scientists extremely difficult.
These challenges mean that it is unfortunately unlikely that researchers are going to discover a genetic solution to hip dysplasia that will work across breeds. Whilst genetics have an important role to play, the chance of inheriting the condition is low. Schemes are in place with reputable breeders that check for hip dysplasia before mating two dogs. This can help reduce the risk of the litter developing hip dysplasia.
What are the symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?
Several symptoms can indicate hip dysplasia. Please note that not all of these symptoms mean it is this condition therefore it is important to visit your vet for an accurate diagnosis. It is also important to note that the condition can occur extremely mildly to begin with, so they may not show any symptoms until the condition has worsened and has led to arthritis.
How is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?
Your vet will go through your dog’s medical history, check for detached joints, loss of motion, or pain in the hip area. In addition to this blood tests or x rays can also help assess how serious the hip dysplasia in dogs is.
What is the treatment?
There are several types of treatments that can help improve the condition.
It is important to keep your dog’s weight under control as the extra weight can add unnecessary additional strain on the joint which can cause more pain and worsen the condition.
Whilst exercise can help keep your dogs weight under control, it can also help keep the joint moving. You must keep the exercise controlled though as over-exercise can be harmful. Start with regular, short walks and avoid jumping or chasing unless your vet advises you otherwise.
Anti-inflammatory medication or other types of pain relief may be prescribed by your vet
When hip dysplasia is severe in dogs, surgery may be the only option. There are a few options available such as a pelvic Osteotomy, femoral head osteotomy, or total hip replacement. You will need to discuss them with your vet who will be able to advise which one will best suit your dog’s condition.
Even if your dog has surgery, you will need to continue treatment throughout the dog’s life in order to keep the condition under control. These additional treatments can help control the pain, improve mobility and improve the dog’s overall quality of life.
Joint supplements- these can help slow the development of arthritis
Hydrotherapy- the use of water can be a great way to exercise the dog without having to put strain on their joints
Physiotherapy- tailored exercises and stretches can help build muscle strength and help take pressure off the hip joints.
Most dogs with hip dysplasia end up developing arthritis which can be extremely painful for the dog. If your dog’s pain is severe to the point of not being able to be controlled, then you may need to consider making the difficult decision to put them to sleep. However, your vet will be able to advise whether this is necessary or if there are alternative methods of treatment to try first.
Hip dysplasia is, unfortunately, a painful condition that requires lifelong treatment. However, by understanding the condition, knowing what the symptoms are and what forms are treatment are available, dog owners are in the best position to help monitor the condition and help ensure their dog lives a comfortable, long life.
When dogs have neurological disorders the signs can start extremely quickly which is scary for both the dogs and their owners. Whilst the symptoms may not necessarily mean it is something to be concerned about, the treatment options available will be more successful if the symptoms are spotted sooner. Therefore, owners must understand what the signs are. With a range of possible diagnoses and treatments, here we explain the most common neurological disorders in dogs.
What are canine neurological disorders?
Canine neurological disorders are classed as any illness that stems from the dog’s central nervous system. These disorders are common caused by injury, diseases, or other health issues. As they can target the brain, spinal cord, and nerves and can be severe, they need treatment as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.
What are some of the symptoms?
Whilst the symptoms can vary significantly, here are some of the common symptoms that indicate a potential neurological based disorder in dogs:
How to diagnose neurological disorders in dogs?
Whilst there is no single way to diagnose, a veterinary may start their medical investigation by seeking out the answers to the following:
What are common neurological disorders in dogs?
The vestibular system helps maintain balance and coordination of the head and eyes. If there is a problem with this system, dogs can usually show symptoms such as a strange head tilt, nausea, sporadic eye movement, and even difficulty standing.
A specific type of vestibular disease can be found in more mature dogs. Commonly known as Old Dog Vestibular Disease. This adversely affects the balance of the dog and can feel like the room is spinning.
These symptoms can be scary for an owner to see and some owners confuse them and assume their dog is having a stroke when this may not actually be the case.
Depending on the patient and the severity, there are anti-nausea drugs that can be administered to help keep the dog feeling more comfortable.
An issue with the spinal cord is called myelopathy and signs can vary from pain to complete paralysis. From carrying out imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans, veterinarians should be able to localise the pain and get a clearer understanding of what is causing it.
One type of spinal disease is Wobbler Syndrome. This disorder is caused by abnormalities in the back and soft tissues of the neck that lead to the compression of the spinal cord. Over time this can lead to the dog showing an unsteady gait. Once the disorder has been diagnosed, it can often be treated via surgery or a combination of surgery and other medical therapies.
A common cause of back and neck pain in dogs that can lead to a lack of coordination is Intervertebral Disc Degeneration and Herniation. (IVDD) . The discs usually function to provide cushioning between the bones and spine, so when this starts to degenerate, it hardens and causes compression of the spinal cord which can be extremely painful.
Seizures can be a terrifying and traumatic thing for the dog and the owners to see. The fact that they are sudden is part of why they are so scary. Seizures are a sign of abnormal electrical activity in the brain for a varying length of time and can be an indication of several issues.
Seizures can be caused by metabolic problems such as a deficiency in vitamins like calcium or because the patient has low blood sugar. Carrying out blood tests should be able to identify this. They could also be caused by something a bit more sinister such as a tumour or infection in the brain. CT and MRI scans again should be able to be used to see if this is the case or to rule it out. If none of these are causing the seizures, the dog could be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Once the root of seizures has been figured out, the treatment aims to decrease the frequency that they occur. This can often be done with anti-epileptic drugs or a combination of medication and other forms of treatment.
Treatments for neurological diseases
The treatments available depends on the individual dog and its condition. However, popular treatments that can be used on a range of disorders include hydrotherapy, balance exercises, acupuncture, cryotherapy, and laser therapy - all of which can potentially be effective techniques for pain control. There also may be surgical options available. Whilst some of the disorders will be able to be healed or cured, others may not be and will have to be managed instead.
We understand that neurological disorders can be serious and sudden which is a terrifying prospect for owners. However, by having an understanding of what the symptoms are and what signs to look out for, owners will be in the best position possible to seek medical help urgently if any of these symptoms occur. The swiftness of the response will hopefully help the disorder be diagnosed as quickly as possible and a treatment plan put in place that is tailored to the dog.
Horses need exercise on a daily basis in order to keep their athletic shape and stature. Horse owners need to understand the importance of correct exercise and to create an exercises regime that works for their horses’ individual requirements.
Here we discuss the importance of exercising your horse for good health as well as some different methods to try.
How much exercise does my horse need?
The amount of exercise required can vary from horse to horse, and an exercise programme should take into account your horses’ age, ability, condition and any physical problems your horse may have. Horses that live out with out other horses will get more exercise naturally without any effort from the owner as they will be able to move about whilst grazing. If they are kept stabled, they have less space to move around therefore daily exercise is vital. Turning out with other horses allows them to interact and socialise with other horses.
Horses are naturally active animals and in the wild horses can cover up to 80km per day. They need to travel to where they can acquire water and then move on to find the best available grazing, so they are always on the move. Once we domesticate horses and keep them in stables and paddocks it can sometime be difficult to give them enough exercise to keep them fit and healthy. Therefore, their exercise needs to be planned and more structured to keep them in the best possible shape.
Why do horses need to move a lot?
Horses are not den animals - anatomically and physiologically they are designed to be walking around grazing with the occasional burst of speed and endurance, using their muscles for normal feeding posture i.e head and neck down which allows for coincidental ‘drainage’ from the airways.
Movement affects every physiological component – the respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, lymphatic, and digestive systems. Importantly for most ridden horses it affects the musculoskeletal system, keeping joints and muscles functional and flexible. Most of us keep horses to be able to enjoy all aspects of ridden work, and there is no pleasure for either party if our horse is shuffling and creaking along, as opposed to being forward and enjoying their work.
What is the best exercise for a horse?
This is dependant on many factors – age, ability, condition, and existing physical issues – and what is our end goal? There are so many different levels owners may be looking to achieve, from pleasure riding and amateur competing to elite professional competition. Whichever level we are working towards there must be a basic level of fitness from which to structure an exercise programme which will lead to the owner achieving their goal.
Fitness to work is achieved over a related time from a continued response to increases of natural stresses of progressive and planned intensity. Slow steady movement with short bursts of speed lay down the foundations of fitness. We can then build on these basic fitness levels with more sustained training in whatever discipline and level we have chosen, whilst keeping the horse willing and ready to perform and with minimum risk of injury due the stresses of the work we are doing. In any exercise programme the aim is to create a balance of work and recovery keeping the horse mentally and physically in good health allowing them to be ready and willing to perform.
This is the obvious way to exercise and the reason most owners have a horse in the first place. Having achieved a basic level of fitness we can then begin training to increase work levels relative to our chosen discipline. The higher the level of work we require from our horse, the more important it is to allow recovery days – if we continue to add pressure and stresses without allowing physical and mental recovery, we risk our horse becoming sore, reluctant to work and the risk of long-term injury to joints and muscles.
Any balanced exercise programme will have a mixture of ridden work, lunging/long reining (if suitable for your horse), hacking and days off plus the daily turnout. All horses should be sufficiently warmed up before any intense work begins, and your warm up programme will depend on your horses’ existing physical condition, aimed at warming up joints and muscles it may take anything up to 25 mins for some horses to be ready to start the more intense part of the schooling session. Once work is complete allow a cooling down period of stretching and unwinding (both mentally and physically). The cool down period is also seen as the horse’s reward for the work they have just given us – we take the pressure off them before we finish our ridden session.
As already mentioned, turn out not only exercises your horse by gently and naturally keeping joints and muscles moving, but it is also beneficial for their digestive and respiratory health and their mental well-being. The available amount and quality of the pasture must be monitored so that over eating does not become an issue – no horse wants to work when carrying too much weight and the health implications can be disastrous. Also consider the need for shelter and shade of some sort in the field – especially during some of our summer periods when the heat is intense – horses can also suffer from heatstroke and sunburn – if there isn’t any shade or shelter available, most owners will sensibly turn out overnight.
Lunging / Long-reining
This can be beneficial when done correctly but can be detrimental when done badly. Lunging or long reining allow the horse to work without a rider on their back and gives the rider a chance to watch how their horse is moving. It can be a strenuous form of exercise and some physical conditions will contraindicate lunging but may be more suitable for long reining.
In either case, the horse needs to learn how to be lunged or long reined correctly and the handler needs to be knowledgeable and capable enough to monitor and make corrections.
This has many benefits for the physical and mental well- being of your horse. Some riders will allow the horse to hack out on a long rein and use it as a total relaxation session, some will keep the horse working in an outline. Much depends on the character of the horse – it’s not a good idea to hack on a long rein when you are on a spooky horse – and however you choose to hack out, the aim should be that the horse is not under pressure to ‘work’ and can be allowed intervals to stretch out and relax. Even when hacking you will be doing some schooling – moving around parked cars and avoiding spooky objects requires us to use the same ridden aids that we use when schooling.
Walk hacking is a great exercise when rehabilitating injuries – a good rhythmical and forward pace is exactly the type of work which helps to develop muscle mass. Walking can be tiring for weak muscles, so as with any exercise programme hacking needs to be tailored to avoid fatigue if your horse has a physical condition that you are rehabilitating.
The water treadmill or the swimming pool – the water resistance provided by this type of exercise can help rehabilitate certain conditions, it will help build muscle mass and increase cardio-vascular fitness. As with all forms of exercise any underlying condition should be considered before adding it to your work or rehabilitation programme. If joints and muscles are painful or inflamed, then address these issues first with your vet and veterinary physiotherapist. With any form of exercise that is new to a body, it needs to be built into the programme gradually and the animal monitored for any signs of mental or physical stress.
Exercise is beneficial for the health and well being of your horse. Certain factors need to be considered when planning an exercise programme, these factors are based on the individual needs and ability of the horse balanced with the riders’ expectations and goals.
A good basic fitness programme lays the foundations for us to be able to build on, this is especially beneficial for young horses and horses who have been out of work for an extended period.
Intense or targeted exercise requires periods of recovery to prevent fatigue and the risk of injury to the joints and muscles. Intensity is relative to the individual based on their age, ability, condition, and any underlying physical problems.
Osteoarthritis is extremely common and not just in humans, it can affect a range of animals, especially horses. Also known as a degenerative joint disease, this condition can be debilitating, painful and can lead to reduced athletic function. Here we provide an overview of equine osteoarthritis for horse owners.
What is Equine Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis refers to inflammation in the joint and whilst there are numerous types, osteoarthritis is the most common form and can cause an intense amount of pain. Osteoarthritis is a synovial joint disease that breaks down the cartilage which covers and protects the bone ends forming the joint. Over time this begins to thicken due to the continuous wear and the joint no longer functions smoothly. The disease can impact any joint in the body including the hips, jaw, and spine however it usually forms in the knees, fetlocks, and stifles. The condition is chronic and can progress at different rates. There are multiple causes of osteoarthritis which include trauma, aging, and sepsis to name just a few.
Which horses can suffer from Equine Osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, this condition can affect all horses regardless of their breed, age or discipline. Therefore, it is a disease that all horse owners should be aware of, take seriously and seek professional medical help if your horse starts to show the common symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can vary however, they can include swelling in the localised area, lameness, and stiffness. There may also be a cracking or grinding sensation in the affected joint.
It can be challenging for owners to establish how much pain the animal is in. As one of the main Osteoarthritis symptoms is lameness, your vet will carry out a lameness work up to help diagnose and accurately determine where the pain is originating. X-rays can sometimes be used to spot lesions however, these will not be visible in the early stages of the condition. You may also notice that the horse is stiff when they start to move when they come out of the stable. However, stiffness does not necessarily mean it is Osteoarthritis and could be a symptom for something else which will have to be ruled out first.
What are the methods of treatment?
Methods to effectively manage the pain caused by equine osteoarthritis are still limited. However, there are pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options that owners can choose from.
Before any treatment options are chosen, any medical condition should be discussed with a vet beforehand. Using the wrong method or delaying the treatment can result in serious consequences, negatively impacting the health of your horse.
One popular non-pharmaceutical treatment method is effective weight management. The number of overweight horses continues to rise and this extra weight can cause significant strain on the affected joint. By increasing their exercise regime and reducing the amount of daily food intake, this can be achieved. As the horse is in pain ensure the exercise remains light and low impact for longer periods. Short intense bursts of exercise could cause more strain on the affected joint.
At the early stages, OA affects movement even before a visible lameness is seen. These subtle changes in movement will lead to compensation as weight bearing is shifted to other areas so it is important to support the whole body.
OA can be crippling and can cause your horse a lot of pain as the condition develops. It can also be frustrating for the owner to manage the condition both in the short term and long term. Although the disease is common other conditions have similar symptoms, so if you believe your horse is in pain, you must seek professional veterinary advice.
A qualified NAVP veterinary physiotherapist will be able to support you following diagnosis and help manage the symptoms using the many skills in their toolbox such as massage, kinesiotaping and laser. The suitability of each depending on the individual animal following a full assessment.